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Tax Policy Scholarship puts future tax leaders in the spotlight

Tax Policy Scholarship puts future tax leaders in the spotlight 9149 6099 Taxpolicy

Four innovative young professionals have been selected as finalists in this year’s Tax Policy Scholarship Competition, a biannual prize hosted by the Tax Policy Charitable Trust.

The fifth edition of the competition, which supports the development of innovative tax policy research and thinking in Aotearoa New Zealand, is underway.

The Tax Policy Scholarship competition runs every two years to showcase the next generation of tax leaders. Entrants under the age of 35 are invited to propose changes to our tax system, analysing weaknesses in the current model and unintended consequences from existing tax rules.

Participants were invited to propose creative tax solutions backed by reasoned research and analysis. The competition attracted outstanding submissions from young professionals and bold ideas to overhaul inefficiencies in our system.

This year’s judges:

  • Joanne Hodge – Former tax partner at Bell Gully and a member of the 2017 Tax Working Group
  • Craig Elliffe – Professor of Law at The University of Auckland and a member of the 2017 Tax Working Group
  • Nick Clark – Senior Fellow, Economics and Advocacy at The New Zealand Initiative
  • Chris Cunniffe – Strategic Advisor at TMNZ (retired CEO, TMNZ)

The 2024 submissions showcased the bright future of the tax profession in New Zealand. We’re thrilled to announce the four finalists for this year’s award.

Our four finalists

Matthew Handford

Matthew is a Tax Solicitor at Mayne Wetherell. His submission was ‘ TLC for the Tax System’.

‘TLC’ stands for an independent Tax Law Commission to restore the Generic Tax Policy Process (GTTP). Matthew believes restoring GTTP would improve the quality of New Zealand tax law.

Under Matthew’s proposal, a TLC, independent of Inland Revenue, would have a standing mandate to systematically review the operation of New Zealand’s tax laws and make recommendations for their improvement.

Claudia Siriwardena

Claudia is a Senior Tax Consultant at Deloitte. Her submission proposed changes to New Zealand’s Fringe Benefit Tax regime.

Claudia said the current system was too complex and imposed high compliance costs on employers. She proposed a new small business FBT regime to simplify the rules around motor vehicles and unclassified benefits, reducing compliance costs and increasing revenue integrity.

Her proposal would also amend the current unclassified benefits rules to target only benefits provided to employees that would reasonably be viewed as provided in connection with their employment.

Matthew Seddon

Matthew is a lawyer at Bell Gully. His proposal focused on the underreporting of tax by independent contractors. Matthew said statistics showed that contractors underreport roughly 20% of their taxable income.

Matthew suggests withholding taxes should be extended to payments received by independent contractors engaged by persons with an existing PAYE withholding obligation (i.e., employers) and to those operating through electronic marketplaces. The withholding tax obligation would be at a 20% rate.

Andrew Paynter

Andrew works as a Policy Advisor at Inland Revenue. His submission focused on extracting more tax revenue in New Zealand without negatively impacting lower and middle-income earners.

Andrew noted the effectiveness of the GST in capturing tax. His suggestion is to increase the GST rate to 17.5% and introduce a GST refund tax credit for low- and middle-income individuals.

The GST refund credit would be a means-tested individualised credit paid at a flat rate to all resident individuals under a particular income threshold.

Selecting this year’s winner

The finalists were announced on July 4 at an event at Generator Auckland.

Each of the four will go on to develop a 4,000-wor d submission on their proposal, presenting their final idea and answering questions at a function on Tuesday 22 October in Wellington. The winner will be announced that evening.

Former winners debate the future of tax

The event to announce this year’s finalists also featured a panel discussion on the future of tax, featuring some of our past competition winners.

An engaging panel discussion on the sufficiency of New Zealand’s tax revenue was chaired by tax expert Geof Nightingale.

Our panel included:

  • Matt Woolley (Senior Associate, Quigg Partners)
  • Nigel Jemson (Director, Tax, PwC)
  • Talia Harvey (Senior Policy Advisor, Inland Revenue)
  • Vivien Lei (Senior Group Tax Advisor, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare)

Exploring current tax revenue sources and options for the future, the panel shared ideas on what the future of tax might look like in New Zealand.

Themes that were canvassed during the discussion and audience Q&A included:

  • The sustainability of New Zealand Superannuation under its current settings; options for changing those settings could include indexing to inflation rather than to wages, increasing the age of eligibility, and means-testing.

  • Key tax trends to watch and their connections to productivity. For example, a capital gains tax could make the tax system fairer and more equitable, but could also impact investment, entrepreneurship, and the flow of capital into the economy. It was also noted that environmental taxes were a “hot” trend in Europe. Taxes on items like plastic packaging could change behaviours and encourage efficiency improvements, leading to productivity gains and helping to address environmental issues.

  • The opportunity to increase tax revenues by better ensuring that tax owing under existing law is collected. It is well known that during the last few years, Inland Revenue has been less visible in its audit and investigatory work. A greater focus on audit and investigation work could be expected to identify areas of non-compliance and encourage greater levels of compliance in future.

  • The importance of economic growth and increased productivity in growing tax revenues. History has shown that growing the economy can lead to increased tax revenues to an extent that might far exceed the impact of new taxes.

Former Tax Policy Scholarship Competition winner and current Tax Policy Charitable Trust committee member Vivien Lei said it was “an honour to be on such an amazing panel”.

Finalists honoured

Brendan Brown, chair of the Tax Policy Charitable Trust, said the panel discussion highlighted both the talent and strong level of interest in the New Zealand tax system among up and coming tax professionals. He thanked the panellists (former winners of the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition) and Geof Nightingale as panel chair, for sharing their ideas in what was a thought-provoking discussion.

“I would also like to congratulate the four finalists in this year’s competition, and to thank everyone who entered the competition for their work in formulating their proposals. Participating in the competition and initiatives like it not only contributes to a better tax system but also provides excellent opportunities for those who participate.”

“The Tax Policy Charitable Trust was established some 12 years ago to encourage future tax policy leaders and lead tax policy thinking in New Zealand. I’d like to acknowledge the generosity of Ian Kuperus, the founder of TMNZ, in establishing the trust, and TMNZ for its tremendous support in enabling events like this to happen.”

Find out more about the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition here.

Emissions expert Ian Parry shares insights with NZ tax leaders 

Emissions expert Ian Parry shares insights with NZ tax leaders  2560 1707 Taxpolicy

New Zealand has been engaged in debate around emissions reduction targets and the policies needed to achieve them. Recently, the Tax Policy Charitable Trust sponsored a visit from Ian Parry, a leading international expert on climate change mitigation strategies, including carbon pricing and emissions trading schemes. 

As the Principal Environmental Fiscal Policy Expert at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Ian brings a wealth of relevant experience and research. Prior to joining the IMF in 2010, he held the prestigious Allen V. Kneese Chair in Environmental Economics at Resources for the Future, where he worked for 15 years. Ian also holds a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago, where his doctoral thesis, supervised by Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, focused on carbon taxation. 

Ian’s current research examines the economic impacts and optimal design of a wide range of environmental, energy, and transportation policies. A central focus of his work is on the critical role of fiscal instruments, such as carbon pricing, in addressing environmental externalities and generating revenue. 

During his visit to New Zealand, Ian engaged with various government departments, , to share his insights and he also delivered public lectures to tax professionals.  

In Wellington, Ian presented with James Every-Palmer from Lawyers for Climate Action to discuss the strengths and limitations of New Zealand’s carbon pricing system. In Auckland, he held a public lecture at the University of Auckland, exploring the global context of environmental challenges, the role of mitigation instruments, and ways to enhance the acceptability of such policies and broader environmental concerns. Ian concluded his presentation with observations specifically focused on Aotearoa . 

In between his various engagements, Ian was also interviewed by Radio New Zealand, discussing “How do market based carbon pricing schemes work around the world?” 

Ian’s expertise extends beyond his scholarly work. He has published over 50 papers in professional journals and authored numerous other publications, including the books “Fiscal Policy to Mitigate Climate Change: A Guide for Policymakers,” “Issues of the Day: 100 Commentaries on Environmental, Energy, Transportation, and Public Health Policy,” “Getting Energy Prices Right: From Principle to Practice,” and “Implementing a US Carbon Tax: Challenges and Debates.” 

The Tax Policy Charitable Trust has a history of bringing distinguished experts to New Zealand, with previous visiting lecturers including David Bradbury, Deputy Director for the Centre of Tax Policy and Administration at the OECD, Michael Keen, former Deputy Director of the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department, and Joel Slemrod, an American economist and professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan. 

Guest speaker Dr Deborah Russell and Tax Policy Charitable Trust Scholarship winner, Vivien Lei

Inspirational idea wins Tax Policy Scholarship Competition

Inspirational idea wins Tax Policy Scholarship Competition 2560 1707 Taxpolicy

A game-changing idea to fight climate change won this year’s Tax Policy Charitable Trust Scholarship.

Each year, the Tax Policy Charitable Trust (supported by TMNZ) awards a scholarship to celebrate the brightest young minds in the industry, and 2022’s submissions were as inspirational as ever.

Entrants were invited to submit ideas that could transform New Zealand’s tax landscape, looking at either environmental taxation, tax administration, or the powers granted to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue to collect information.

The competition, open to people aged 35 and under, generated progressive and innovative ideas from the industry’s young leaders. In the end, one entrant was selected as this year’s winner for her outstanding approach to New Zealand’s tax and environmental challenges.

And the winner is….

Vivien Lei, Group Tax Advisor at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, won this year’s scholarship for her submission to introduce Impact Weighted Taxation in New Zealand, an innovative idea that would see businesses pay taxes based on their environmental impact.

A panel of leading industry professionals judged Lei’s proposal as the winner among a strong field of candidates. Mitchell Fraser, Daniel Doughty, and Jordan Yates were also celebrated as finalists in the competition.

Lei was crowned the winner at the Tax Policy Charitable Trust’s finals evening on October 19, after each finalist presented their idea to an audience of industry professionals.

Trust Chair John Shewan said the judges were “delighted to see passion and energy behind the submissions and supporting presentations”.

Lei, who received a $10,000 cash prize, described the competition as “an amazing experience”.

“You don’t often get many opportunities to think creatively about tax policy, so this was a nice space to do that,” Lei says. “Being able to develop my policy thinking and talk to some of the leading experts was really great — and winning was a huge surprise!”

This year was Lei’s second attempt to win the scholarship following an earlier submission in 2019. Her perseverance and positive attitude paid off.

“I entered when I was still very green in my career,” she says. “Since then, I’ve been mentored by amazing people who have helped with my development, particularly Rachael Bull, Head of Tax at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, and Joseph Chueh who fostered my interest in tax policy. I was grateful to have their support this time around.”

Tax to fight the climate threat

Lei’s background in the social impact sector and personal concerns about the environment informed her submission idea.

“These are the most difficult problems of our time,” she says. “I’m hoping my idea will bring the conversation to the fore and spark other young minds in our industry to think about how tax might influence positive environmental outcomes.”

The Tax Policy Scholarship Competition is proudly supported by TMNZ, which invests 100% of its profits back into the environment and community, through strategic philanthropic partner, Whakatupu Aotearoa Foundation. Lei believes that tax professionals can help to build a better future for Aotearoa.

“It’s scary to think about the trajectory we are on with our natural capital, so it’s important for our industry to think of ways to help,” she adds.

Vivien Lei, presenting her proposal to introduce Impact Weighted Taxation in New Zealand

Inspiring future tax leaders

Tax Policy Scholarship Competition Judges commented that this year’s entrants will inspire future generations as well as today’s professionals.

“This competition is all about supporting and inspiring future tax policy leaders. The results from this year and from earlier years’ competitions reflect the presence of emerging talent that will ensure the continuation of leading tax policy research and thinking in New Zealand,” said the judges.

Find out more about the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition here.

To see Vivien’s full submission, click here.

Reflections on 30 years of tax reform – lessons from history

Reflections on 30 years of tax reform – lessons from history 2560 1707 Taxpolicy

Three former Treasury heads came together to discuss NZ’s approach to tax reform over the past 30 years, at a forum hosted by the Tax Policy Charitable Trust.

The Tax Policy Charitable Trust, funded by Tax Management New Zealand (TMNZ) aims to promote broader tax thinking for the public good, helping to shape discussion on positive tax policy for all New Zealanders.

This year, the Trust brought together three of New Zealand’s great economic leaders to discuss New Zealand’s approach to tax reform and to reflect on tax policies developed during their time as the Secretary to the Treasury.

Dr Graham Scott, Dr Murray Horn and Dr Alan Bollard led Treasury from 1986 to 2002, a period of significant change across all aspects of the New Zealand economy. Facilitated by Sir Rob McLeod, they discussed changes they oversaw during their time, and shared their views on the tax challenges and opportunities facing the country today.

The session was a great opportunity for to hear about the benefits good tax reform processes have delivered over the past three decades.

Chris Cunniffe, CEO of TMNZ said “Their shared observations on that massive period of economic change in New Zealand’s history is invaluable knowledge for young tax policy stakeholders. It was fascinating to reflect on how the tax system was restructured in that time for the better.”

The evening was attended by leaders in tax, professional services firms, public service and academia. The insightful commentary from Dr Alan Bollard, Dr Murray Horn, Dr Graham Scott and Sir Rob McLeod sparked many conversations on the current economic challenges of the country.

John Shewan, Chair of the Tax Policy Charitable Trust said “Collectively the presentations and associated Q&A shone the light on a remarkable period of New Zealand history. We can learn a great deal from history.

Young professionals expressed astonishment at Dr Graham Scott’s description of New Zealand’s situation in 1984, and at the speed and depth of reform that followed. We sometimes assume that everyone knows what happened back then, but clearly not. One of the core objectives of the Tax Policy Charitable Trust is to engender interest in policy among young professionals, and the evening achieved that in spade loads.”

Tax Policy Scholarship showcases the next generation of talent

Tax Policy Scholarship showcases the next generation of talent 2048 1365 Taxpolicy

Four bright young industry minds have emerged as finalists in this year’s Tax Policy Scholarship Competition, an annual prize hosted by the Tax Policy Charitable Trust. 

The biannual competition, which supports the continuation of leading tax policy research and thinking in New Zealand, enters its fourth round in 2022. The first competition was run in 2015. 

The scholarship is designed to inspire the next generation of tax industry leaders. This year, entrants under the age of 35 were invited to propose significant reforms to our current tax system or analyse potential weaknesses and unintended consequences from existing laws, and propose changes to address them.

Entrants were asked to tackle one of three topics: environmental taxation, tax administration, or the powers granted to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue to collect information for tax policy purposes. Participants were invited to address the topics with creative ideas backed up by reasoned research and analysis.

We are delighted to announce the four finalists for this year’s competition, selected by our panel of leading tax industry professionals.

Daniel Doughty

Daniel is a Senior Consultant with EY in Wellington. He has proposed the introduction of a small business consolidated reporting regime to simplify tax reporting for small companies.

The regime would consolidate pre-existing tax obligations into a single report to be filed every second month. Inland Revenue would send an automated income summary out at the end of the year, similar to those currently prepared for individuals.

Mitchell Fraser

Mitchell is a Tax Solicitor with Mayne Wetherell in Auckland. Mitchell is concerned that the recently-expanded powers granted to Inland Revenue to collect information for tax policy purposes could create unintended consequences.

He believes the new powers risk political interference, conflicting with the IR’s need to be politically neutral. Mitchell proposes identifying alternative means to collect this information, including through Statistics New Zealand.

Vivien Lei

Vivien is Group Tax Advisor with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, and finance lead with the Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Foundation.

Vivien proposes to change New Zealand’s environmental practices through the introduction of an impact-weighted tax regime. Under this model, organisations would be taxed on their net positive or negative impact on the environment.

Jordan Yates

Jordan is a Senior Tax Consultant with ASB in Auckland.

Jordan believes the tax policy landscape is fractured, and suffocated by political roadblocks. His proposal is to establish an independent statutory authority that would be responsible for the independent management of fiscal policy, as it relates to the tax base.

Selecting a winner

The finalists were announced on 2 June, and each will go on to develop a 4,000-word submission on their proposal.

The four will be invited to present their final proposals and answer questions at a function in October 2022. The winner will be announced that evening.

Our Tax Policy Scholarship Competition celebrates creative thinking from young professionals and also provides a springboard for the brightest industry minds to develop their careers.

Nigel Jemson, the winner of the 2019 competition, says: “Entering the competition was a terrific opportunity for me to grow and develop my tax policy thinking and connect with leading minds in the tax community.  Winning the competition has given my career a boost and since, I have enjoyed a range of great roles in tax for leading businesses, Spark and PwC, and continued my involvement in and passion for New Zealand tax policy.”

Chris Cunniffe, Tax Policy Charitable Trust Committee Member and TMNZ Chief Executive, says this year’s entries underline the strength of the next generation.

“We’re consistently delighted with the breadth and the freshness of thinking young people bring to this competition. The competition provides a forum to share ideas, and secondly, ensures that creative tax policy is not the sole domain of people who have worked in the industry for a long time. As an industry, we are open to fresh thinking and new ideas.”

Tax Policy Charitable Trust Chair John Shewan says the entries prove the industry’s future is in good hands.

“New Zealand has been very fortunate to have so many competent tax leaders involved in developing policy for the betterment of our country. It’s very exciting to be around the next generation of future tax policy influencers, who are already, at a young age, focused on innovative opportunities to enhance the tax landscape.”

Michelle Redington, Chief Tax Counsel at Inland Revenue, who was the guest speaker at the event where the four finalists were announced, says it is fantastic to see the Tax Policy Charitable Trust create opportunities for the next wave of tax policy thinkers.

“Throughout my career, I have been very lucky to be supported by some of New Zealand’s preeminent tax leaders, who have been fantastic teachers and mentors,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed a diverse career in tax, spurred on by a need to solve complex problems, and I’m proud to be able to give back to the next generation of talented tax enthusiasts.”

Find out more about the Tax Policy Scholarship Competition, here.

OECD’s David Bradbury meets with IRD, Treasury

OECD’s David Bradbury meets with IRD, Treasury 620 349 Taxpolicy

The Tax Policy Scholarship Charitable Trust recently sponsored the visit by an OECD official who met with government officials to discuss the direction of tax policy changes around the world and how New Zealand might respond to these.

David Bradbury, head of the tax policy and statistics division for the Centre of Tax Policy and Administration at the OECD and a former Australian politician, was this year’s visiting lecturer.

As part of his trip, he engaged with officials from Inland Revenue and The Treasury to discuss such issues as capital gains tax, BEPS and the digital economy. He also held meetings with the Tax Working Group.

David also spoke to tax professionals at events held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The topic of his presentation was: The direction of global tax policy changes, how New Zealand sits and challenges for the future.

It was well received by attendees.

In between his various engagements, David was interviewed by several media outlets on the aforementioned tax issues:

Further information about David Bradbury

At the OECD’s Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, David leads a team of economists, lawyers and statisticians who are focused on providing internationally comparable revenue statistics and delivering high quality economic analysis and tax policy advice.

He served in the Australian Government as the Assistant Treasurer, Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Minister Assisting for Financial Services and Superannuation, and Minister Assisting for Deregulation before joining the OECD in 2014.

As a minister, David led the Australian Government’s contribution to the debate on BEPS and implemented key taxation reforms including the general anti-avoidance rule (Part IVA) and the modernisation of Australia’s transfer pricing laws.

About the Tax Policy Scholarships Charitable Trust

The Tax Policy Scholarships Charitable Trust was established by Ian Kuperus and Tax Management NZ to contribute to the future development of tax policy in New Zealand.

Previous visiting lecturers it has brought to New Zealand include Michael Keen, deputy director of the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department, and professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, Joel Slemrod.